National Park Service Renews Partnership With Mountain Bike Community

Five years after it entered into a memorandum of understanding to explore cycling opportunities in the National Park System, the International Mountain Bicycling Association has renewed the agreement with the National Park Service.

According to a news release from IMBA, the extension will run until 2015 and focus on efforts to build on existing projects and seek "new opportunities to enhance mountain biking in some of America's treasured national parks."

“Bicycling helps draw new visitors, especially younger people, and gives them fun, memorable experiences in the national parks,” said Park Service Director Jon Jarvis. “IMBA has shown through hard work and cooperative attitudes that they share our passion for protecting and enjoying our nation’s parks, and that they share our desire to cultivate that passion in a new generation.”

At IMBA, Executive Director Mike Van Abel said the initial five-year agreement "exceeded or expectations."

“At first there was some uncertainty about mountain biking in national parks, but each success we have created through this partnership has improved the next," said Mr. Van Abel. "Today, IMBA staff meet regularly with NPS officials in Washington and at park units around the nation to consider opportunities for the next round of shared-use trails.”

According to IMBA, among the achievements the relationship with the Park Service has led to are:

* Fighting obesity among the nation's youth. "The IMBA/NPS partnership is helping counteract this disturbing trend by restoring children’s exposure to the natural environment. For the sixth edition of IMBA’s Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day, a partnership between IMBA, Trips for Kids, and the National Park Service created 20 opportunities throughout the country for kids to experience nature on a bike and learn about their local parks."

* The Subaru/IMBA Trail Care Crew has visited dozens of parks to work on trail-building projects. Parks they have visited include:

• Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area
• Big Bend National Park
• Cuyahoga Valley National Park
• Fort Dupont Park
• Whiskeytown National Recreation Area
• Saguaro National Park
• Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park
• Mississippi National River and Recreation Area
• Homestead National Monument of America
• Mammoth Cave National Park
• Hawaii’i Volcanoes National Park
• Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site
• Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area
• Golden Gate National Recreation Area
• Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site
• Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site
• Glen Canyon National Recreation Are
• New River Gorge National River
• Point Reyes National Seashore
• Petroglyph National Monument


A step in the right direction. Cycling opportunities at Point Reyes are still a joke though, but then again, it's in the heart of Marin, a hotbed of bike haters.

How about telling the TRUTH, for a change? A mountain biker does NOT experience the park, any more than the driver of a motor vehicle experiences the park. If you don't give 100% of your attention to controlling the bike, you will crash! Permissing bikes on trails benefits ONLY mountain bikers, and harms the wildlife and other trail users. So where's the net benefit? There ISN'T any!

Bicycles should not be allowed in any natural area. They are inanimate objects and have no rights. There is also no right to mountain bike. That was settled in federal court in 1994: . It's dishonest of mountain bikers to say that they don't have access to trails closed to bikes. They have EXACTLY the same access as everyone else -- ON FOOT! Why isn't that good enough for mountain bikers? They are all capable of walking....

A favorite myth of mountain bikers is that mountain biking is no more harmful to wildlife, people, and the environment than hiking, and that science supports that view. Of course, it's not true. To settle the matter once and for all, I read all of the research they cited, and wrote a review of the research on mountain biking impacts (see ). I found that of the seven studies they cited, (1) all were written by mountain bikers, and (2) in every case, the authors misinterpreted their own data, in order to come to the conclusion that they favored. They also studiously avoided mentioning another scientific study (Wisdom et al) which did not favor mountain biking, and came to the opposite conclusions.

Those were all experimental studies. Two other studies (by White et al and by Jeff Marion) used a survey design, which is inherently incapable of answering that question (comparing hiking with mountain biking). I only mention them because mountain bikers often cite them, but scientifically, they are worthless.

Mountain biking accelerates erosion, creates V-shaped ruts, kills small animals and plants on and next to the trail, drives wildlife and other trail users out of the
area, and (worst of all) teaches kids that the rough treatment of nature is okay (it's NOT!). What's good about THAT?

For more information: .

FYI, MVD is a well known mountain bike hater from the San Francisco bay area who has been spreading the same misinformation for the last 20 years. A quick look at his website will give you a good overview of the character. :) For those interested, there is a fun Mike Vandeman FAQ floating around the web.

Mike---Thank you for pointing out the Federal Court verdict at Quite a long read, but very informative. But, after having read it, I find myself confused. Why is there a new memorandum of understanding to explore cycling opportunities in the National Park System? Can someone explain this to me?
I apologize for rehashing what has been gone over before so many other times in related posts and I apologize for my continual quotations to the case, as it may falsely construe that I have no original statements or ideas of my own...I simply see using the court’s "final words" on the subject to be much more black and white. What I have to say is, obviously, my opinion and can be argued with. A federal court’s...not so much. And besides, it gleans the highpoints from within all the legal-eeze so it is much easier for the mountain bikers to follow (just kidding).
The ruling clearly states that the Supreme Court established that if the intent of Congress is clear, then "that is the end of the matter; for the court, as well as the agency, must give effect to the unambiguously expressed intent of Congress." Therefore if you take into account: 1) "The National Park Service Organic Act provides that the National Park Service shall: promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks, monuments, and reservations hereinafter specified, . . . by such means and measures as conform to the fundamental purpose of the said parks, monuments, and reservations, which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations", and 2) Congress’s 1970 and 1978 amendments to the Organic Act that NPS alter its practice of governing recreational park units under less restrictive standards and instead manage all areas of the park system uniformly with the fundamental goal of resource protection in mind", the matter appears to be pretty much closed.
As pro mountain bikers on this site will try to point out, I'm sure, the Organic Act does not directly speak on the issue of bicycle trail access. Again, I will defer to the federal ruling: "...the Secretary is directed to conserve the natural elements of the parks for the future, 16 U.S.C. section 1, to "provide for the enjoyment" of the parks, to manage the parks "in light of the high public value and integrity of the National Park System," 16 U.S.C. section 1a-1, and to make such rules as "he may deem necessary or proper for the use and management of the parks." 16 U.S.C. section 3. Thusly, an interpretation that the Organic Act allows for this closed-unless-designated open approach for bicycle trail access cannot be termed "manifestly contrary to the statute”."
For those users that cry for their right to ride their mountain bikes in the National Parks, you are more than welcome to as the NPS has stated “that the use of bicycles is allowed in park areas under the same basic conditions as are motor vehicles, i.e. on park roads, in parking areas, and on routes designated for their use. These provisions reflect the facts that the NPS generally considers bicycle use a very appropriate, low impact method for visitors to enjoy park areas, but that certain limitations on their use are necessary and appropriate in the interest of public safety, resource protection, and the avoidance of visitor conflicts.”....The NPS has determined that the designation of a bicycle route outside of such developed areas, in areas whose primary purpose and land uses are related more to the preservation of natural resources and values, would have a much greater potential to result in adverse resource impacts or visitor use conflicts.” It is here, in the frontcountry that the environmental damage and the negative user-to-user interaction from mountain bikes can be minimized.
While many mountain bikers vehemently disagree with the fact that their use causes increased erosion and damage to plant life or cause negative experiences for anyone else (because after all, its not their fault that we are in their way), they often argue that the NPS’s ban is simply arbitrary because it is based on “inadequate data, that no rational connection is established between the data found and the results reached”. What they seem to forget is that “the NPS is not required to embrace the bicyclists' “evidence” and is free in its exercise of expertise to give conflicting evidence whatever weight it deems appropriate in light of the accuracy and credibility of such evidence.” As for the NPS’s evidence to mountain bikes impairment (which is too lengthy to recount here), I will refer those interested to go to the above link and scroll about a third of the way down.
Because I could not have said it better myself, I will end with one last quote from the court to those who want more access: “There is simply nothing in the Organic Act requiring the NPS to give bicyclists unfettered reign of the park without regard to the recreational interests of those whose chosen mode of recreation is inconsistent with such unfettered reign. These statutes certainly do not mandate the interpretation that bicycles must be allowed to roam free through the park.”

These quotes are not from ‘mountain bike hater’ MVD’s website, but from an impartial court case, he originally referenced, that is dealing only with the law. :) Sorry Zeb.

What an odd notion -- unfettered bicycles roaming free in national parks. Not only grammatically suspect but plainly not what the NPS/IMBA partnership has achieved. As the IMBA press release makes explicitly clear, there are now dozens of successful examples of well-planned mountain bike venues in national parks. Visit these place and you will see that visitors are sharing trails without conflict, that the natural beauty of the properties is undiminished and that the parks are benefiting from the support of the local mountain bike communities.

Mr. dentist, the court said that there is no mandate to make access universal to cyclists, but it also did not say that there is mandate to ban cyclists as well. So, basically, all it's saying is that the NPS can do as it wants with our parks. So, if they want to, they can continue to ban cyclists based on irrational/illogical reasons, simply because there is no mandate from Congress to give us access. I don't see how the law makes either one of us "right".

The fact remains that many national parks are off limits to cyclists for no good reason (I won't go over them again, it's somewhere on this site), and the law simply takes no side, leaving the NPS to make up rules as they go.

Mountain bike haters of all stripes take comfort that the NPS has historically been bike averse (to say the least) and mountain bikers have a glimmer of hope that things seem to change. It always comes down to the same thing: those who have unrestricted access simply don't want to share and keep the tax payer funded parks to themselves. Since "not wanting to share" is not really something to be proud of, it gets dressed up in all kinds of arguments that really have not much to do with reality.

Happy trails.

This is off-topic, but I'd like to mention to Kurt that if it weren't for Google I would not have encountered this discussion. If Kurt's site wants to reach out to a wider audience, it should do what and New West do and enable people to be signaled by e-mail when they get a followup comment in a particular thread to which they posted. It appears that the system here generates a reply to ANY post in ANY thread if one signs up to receive replies, which makes one not want to request replies. Then threads die more quickly than they ought and end up attracting fewer readers than they might. Of course I could be wrong about the system's operation; moreover, it's been months since I last checked the response-generating system. But that's what I perceive.

C'mon, imtnbke, you should be reading the Traveler daily and not need any email notifications;-)

We have noticed some issues with the email notification system, and hope to cure them soon.

Substantively, and in reply to toothdoctor, this is essentially a cultural problem, not an environmental one. Those who have hardly ever ridden a bicycle on a trail have a hard time understanding the appreciation for America's wildlands it instills in those of us who do it regularly, and an equally hard time understanding the tremendous salutary aspects of our method of travel (a light footprint, great physical fitness benefits, appeal to youth who would otherwise perch glaze-eyed in front of a video screen, etc.). The reason for this cultural disconnect is pretty simple: as we pass one another, you see a helmet, gears, and wheels and unless we stop to chat I imagine the image is alienating. That alienation insinuates itself into a generalized dislike for mountain biking, hence Zebulon's references to "mountain bike haters."

There are a few diehard mountain bike haters out there, but they are outweighed by a category of what I would term mountain bike skeptics. It's similar to climate change: there are a few hard-core climate change deniers who are impervious to all argument, but there are many more skeptics who doubt that the phenomenon is sufficiently understood to justify major policy changes and yet are open to discussing it. There's no point in trying to reason with the haters, but for the skeptics, I can offer no better suggestion than to try a bit of trail cycling yourselves and get to know a few mountain bikers. Your alienation may dwindle or disappear, and that can only be good for all nonmotorized trail users.

You're right, I should be reading it every hour. But who can tear himself away from the latest about Tiger Woods? :-) (Actually, I regard that as the ultimate nonstory.)

Mike, I do have to say that some of your comments can be applied towards hiking as well. If I don't look where I'm placing my feet and 'keeping control' then I happen to crash....and I do so quite often. That's why when I'm both biking or hiking I always stop every so often and just take a look around. It's true that mountain bikes cause more erosion than hiking, but have you seen heavily hiked trails? There are some sections of trail in Shenandoah that are 2ft lower than the surrounding area, all from hiking boots. Bikes cause more, but not so much that we should ban them. Hikers kill small animals all the time by walking on them. I have seen many squashed toads and salamanders on trails. People hiking off trails or walking side by side on narrow trails also kill small plants on the sides of the trail. And those trekking poles...all those little holes they make! As for teaching kids that rough treatment of nature is ok...mountain biking is not rough treatment of nature. Instead it teaches our children (who are getting pretty chubby!) the benefits of putting down the video game controller and heading outside to ENJOY nature while they exercise. I am a ranger, a biologist, and a tree-hugging, bunny-loving, fern-fondling, dirt worshiper and I think mountain bikes are not the antichrist

To Zebulon,
We are in agreement; there is no court mandate to ban cyclists from National Parks. And we are in agreement that the NPS can do as it wants with our parks. But your continued droning persistence that cyclists are banned for irrational/illogical reasons is getting tired. Please address the science that was listed in the court case as well as in other NPS studies and back up your refutations with verifiable information of your own. You are also correct that “not wanting to share” really does not have much to do with reality; because the reality of the National Parks is that everyone is welcome to enter and enjoy the land. The NPS is not restricting your access, just your bike’s. As an avid mountain biker and hiker I have no problem with getting off of my bike to hit the Park trails on my own two feet. When I want to get on my bike again, I simply go somewhere else. Because, as you said in another post on this site, you will not hike because you find it boring, is not the NPS infringing upon your rights, it is your personal choice.

To imtnbke
I have to disagree that this is essentially a cultural problem. I still see it as essentially an environmental problem. While I cannot 100% refute your and Zebulon’s claims that there are “mountain bike haters” out there, I can claim that I have not come across it personally. I have been actively riding my mountain bike for over 12 years, over numerous trails throughout the Midwest (not the exciting biking climate or terrain that I am sure you are used to, but good for the area) and have never come across the cultural disconnect that you speak of. I am not sure if we Midwesterners are just of a calmer temperament than those that you deal with, or if it is that I am also an avid hiker as well and with a broader circle of observation can see both sides of the proverbial coin.
And while there very well may be more than a few diehard mountain bike haters out there, but there are certainly more than a few overzealous mountain bike lovers out there as well. As you said, it is similar to climate change argument: there are a few hard-core fanatics on both sides that will scream until they are blue in the face, without taking into account any hard facts or science. While I am for more people “trying a bit of trail cycling themselves” for a way to get outside; doing so as an aside to reduce ‘cultural alienation’ and find some middle ground does nothing to address the impact that this increased usage would have on the trails. As an active biker I have seen and have contributed to the environmental deterrents that the NPS had listed in their court case,, as their reasons for not allowing more trails in the Parks.
Maybe here in the Midwest we do not keep or maintain the bike trails as well as in other areas, and so maybe what I have seen is the worst of the worst, and thusly have a skewed perspective. Maybe, with the proper trail maintenance that Zebulon has implied is the norm amongst “bike lovers”, the science that he rails against is, while valid, not entirely applicable. For the sake of making my point, I will not argue this. Therefore I postulate, if the trail conditions that I have seen/contributed to, verifying the NPS’s science, are simply a result of poor maintenance, how is opening up/creating more trails in the NPS going to be good for the Parks. With the maintenance backlog now in place, how is adding to it with new extra demands for trail upkeep realistic. I fear that with not the money, nor the manpower to keep the trails in good shape, that the soil erosion and vegetative destruction the NPS talks about would be the norm.

Toothdoctor, I also get tired of people bringing the same irrational argument to ban bicycles from trails. Cuts both ways. :) You're bringing the same old argument: "you're free to go in the park, you just can't bring your bike". So what if the NPS changed the access rule so that you could not hike, but could only mountain bike in the park? How would you like it?

So far, the science has shown that bikers do not create any more erosion than hikers, hence my bitter disagreement with the current rules.

Interesting development regarding Mr. Vandeman. Turns out that he was arrested in Berkeley on charges of assault with a deadly weapon on two unsuspecting cyclists.

It's one thing to disagree on trail access issue, but taking the matter into your own hands...

Assault with a Deadly Weapon (Suspect Arrested)
UCPD crime report # 10-02127

East-West Fire Trail June 1, 2010

On Friday, May 28, 2010 UCPD received a report of an assault with a
deadly weapon which had occurred around 6 weeks earlier. The assault
occurred on a Sunday on the East-West Fire Trail located in the hills
above campus. The victims, two non-affiliated White males, reported
the crime after hearing of similar incidents occurring to bicyclists
on the fire trail. The victims were riding their bicycles westbound on
the trail when they encountered the suspect walking in the opposite
direction. The suspect was holding a handsaw and cut one of the
victims across the chest with the saw. The victims asked the suspect
why he had attacked them. He told them they should not be riding their
bicycles on the trail. The victims positively identified the suspect
from a photograph. UCPD contacted the suspect who admitted to holding
a saw in front of some bicyclists on a trail and contacting one of
them with the saw. The suspect was subsequently taken into custody.
One of the victims suffered minor injuries during the assault.
Additional charges may be filed from similar incidences on the fire
trail including one reported in a crime alert on May 6, 2010.

The suspect is described as:

VANDEMAN, Michael J., a White non-affiliated male, 67 years of age.

I'm new to mountain biking. It's one of the few things I can afford to do with the gas prices going up and one of the healthiest things my family does together as a group. There is a National Park about 30 miles from where I live and recently they are closing off sections and the private sector is moving in to log the land. The park service is telling us they are closing down the sections because the park is not producing sufficent funds to stay open to the public. Tell me Mike V. are you for real? You seem to me like a Fox TV/Rupert Murdoch spinner of the truth. I once delt with a girl like you in a debate forum I moderated. She claimed to be protecting one thing while at the same time it was obvious her job was to destroy an open forum for discussion through claiming that everything that was free was bad. Myspace shut down my group (the largest debate group on the net at the time) and about 20 other groups like mine 1 week after Murdoch purchased myspace. Myspace claimed my group was getting too many complaints yet nobody had complained to me but 1 girl that seemed a bit psychotic to me. A provocateur is what they call people like you. They make arguements that are very week filled with lots of psychosis and demand everyone be more restricted. There is plenty of space to make some trails designated for bikes. I understand that it would be dangerous for bikes to be on paths heavily populated with people, but in all reality, some trails just don't have many people at all on them. Acording to my local park service, not enough to even keep the park open to the public. So now they're going to cut down trees, they are lying to people by telling them it's the same as a natural forest fire. Cutting trees does nothing but dry the land. All thanks to people like you. The solution could have been to charge mountain bikers a yearly fee to pay for trail maintainence. But you don't want to hear it just like any other provocateur wouldn't want to hear a sound arguement. Provocateurs are people that don't want to debate. They like to inflame people and over react to things. So Mike.... When are we going to get rid of all the roads, homes, corporate sky scrapers, etc that kill all the natural land around. It makes so much more sense to go after the mountain bikers. Fewer bikers means more heart disease/diabetes means I can't wait for you to get the bill for that Mike V. Just plain stupid....

Sean, if you could please tell us which national park is closing areas so they can be logged, that would be a huge story.